The Case for Oswalt (or rather: The Case for Not Floyd/Blanton)

As per these three tweets from Jerry Crasnick @JCrasnick;, it would seem that if the Jays were in contention, then we would have a legitimate chance at signing the once-dominant and well-rested front-line starter that could make September interesting:

Time will tell if anyone has an interest in Oswalt. It could boil down to which contending team has a key pitching injury.

Oswalt still looking at possible June return. His kids will be out of school by then, so he can take the family wherever he goes

Roy Oswalt now telling teams he'll play anywhere. Until recently, he was focused on pitching close to his home in Mississippi

Where would the Jays need to be in the standings in June to make Oswalt reconsider the Great White North? Or does he still exclude the Jays from the list of possibilities as per his earlier notification to the Blue Jays front office.

Why We Would Want Him:

Oswalt may have some serious health issues over the last several years but there are few pitchers in the Majors with comparable success over the last decade. While his best years are almost certainly behind him, this does not mean that he could not provide good value to the Blue Jays on a one-year pro-rated contract as he attempts to re-build value and cash in on one last multi-year deal. For those who would prefer to trade top prospects/high-ceiling underperformers (i.e. Snider) for guys like Gavin Floyd or Joe Blanton, I would ask why they would not like to see first what we have in our 3/4/5 guys before giving up potential stars.

Despite time on the DL last year and rough patches ostensibly because of his sore back, Oswalt finished 2011 with an ERA of 3.69 and an FIP/xFIP of (3.44/3.95). Fangraphs had him at 2.5 fWAR in 24 games (23 starts). Even if this is the Oswalt that we get (and last year was the low point of his career), he would be an immediate upgrade over even the 2010 Brett Cecil.

Whether you believe Cecil's improved command (yet to be proven) from his weight loss will help overcome his understandably frustrating loss of velocity or not, it would be difficult to imagine that the addition of Oswalt in June would harm this club and it may help it play some meaningful games in September. While we all would like to believe that Cecil will return to form, Dustin McGowan's health problems are behind him for good and Henderson Alvarez' success in a small sample will be translated into a full season of success in the AL East, it is almost a given that one of these three will either falter, get injured, or run into an innings limit. Who better to supplement the group than a guy who won't cost the team its prized prospects/underperformers, who is ready to go in June, and who possesses the track record for success like Oswalt?

Why He Would Want to Come Here:

Roger Clemens didn't wait until halfway through the season to sign with the Pittsburgh Pirates; he waited and then signed with a contender to ply his trade not only in a meaningful division race but the playoffs as well. Oswalt is widely believed to want the same sort of arrangement. That means if the Jays were to have a chance, they would need to be at the most a couple games behind the 2nd Wild Card but more likely within striking distance of both the 1st Wild Card and the AL East division lead. While some journalists believe in the potential of the Blue Jays in the coming years, it would take a rather hot start hopefully fuelled by a few breakout/bounceback performances (Rasmus/KJ/Lawrie/Morrow/Alvarez/Snider or Thames) and some good luck (good health for Jays/poor health elsewhere) in order to be in a position to attract Oswalt come June. However, it is the Spring after all (the season of boundless optimism) and Jays fans have reason to be more optimistic this year than in any other Spring in recent memory.

In addition to a winning club, we do have the potential to outbid the other suitors that may be lining up for Oswalt's services. If the Blue Jays make the smart move and leave Joe Blanton and his inflated salary in Philadelphia, they may not be able to make a competitive offer to Oswalt. The Red Sox and Yankees are notorious for their spending but both have signalled that they would like to get down closer to the $189 M luxury tax threshold (though a pro-rated one-year deal would certainly not be out of the question for them). Could the Jays not offer something creative to Oswalt like an insurance policy of sorts in a mutual option for 2013 with a healthy buyout if the Jays declined in case his back doesn't hold up this year? While I don't believe the club is one or two pieces away from the playoffs as the roster currently stands, I believe there is enough upside in the existing players that I might change my mind by June.

Why This Move Makes Sense for the Club:

1. This move does not sacrifice talent from the Major League roster like Thames/Snider who both have the potential to be a fixture in LF for the next decade (I believe it will be Snider but I am not prepared to forget Thames' potential quite yet).

2. It allows the Jays to see what they have in Cecil/Alvarez/McGowan through June which is not definitive but is also enough of a sample that it's not completely guess work. I'm not even sure who the frontrunner to falter should be, but by the careful examination of Cecil's bullpen by Farrell recently and the recently reported due diligence and rumours I would warrant a guess that management believes it will be Cecil.

3. A one-year pro-rated contract (even with a healthy buyout on an option year) would not handcuff the team financially in the long or short term. It also would not significantly block the rise of young starting pitchers on the cusp (Hutchison/McGuire/Jenkins) or even the generation following them (Syndergaard/Sanchez/Nicolino).

I realize that the odds of Oswalt choosing Toronto or even being among realistic suitors come around June are slim. That's not what this was all about. I wrote this on the off-chance that it prevents a rash move like trading Snider for an overvalued, overpaid starting pitcher. Also, I thought it might help in the search for Kony.

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